21.10.07

I am no Sita: Kahani eik shaakh ki

Kahani eik shaakh ki

Main jaanti hoon
Main Sita nahin hoon
Na hoon main
Atoot darakht aangan ki

Tum bhi to Ram nahin ho
To banwaas ka bahana banaakar
Kyon bhatak gaye
Mere sehra mein

Main to padi thi
Shaakh bankar
Kyon shabnam se
Bhigo diya mujhe

Chaudah saal to chhodo
Chaudah din mein khushboo phaila di reit par
Tap-tapati garmi mein saaya bane
Aur chandni se raat ki talab bujha di

Phir nikal pade
Apne aangan ki orr
Main ban gayi chor
Apne-aap se aankhein churati

Behla leti hoon thame dil ko
Apni hastee ke baare mein
Aakhir kadi dhoop mein to roz hi
Sookhe shaakh ki agni-pariksha hoti hain

~FV

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Today is Dussehra. It celebrates the victory of good over evil, of Lord Ram over Ravana. I dedicate the poem to the forgotten Sitas...

I assume most of you know the story. However, I have turned it over, so to speak. In the real mythology, Lord Ram was exiled (banwas) for 14 years. His wife Sita was kidnapped by Ravana, who was vanquished by Ram. On return to Ayodhya, however, Sita was asked to prove her purity by her husband in a trial by fire, the agni pariksha.

5 comments:

Beej.Kumar@gmail.com said...

Your understanding of the story of the Rama is extremely shallow and clearly you did zero research before putting up the (clearly wrong) account of the agni-pariksha that you list in the footnote. I refer you to the Wikipedia:

"After Rama slays Ravana and wins the war, Sita wants to come before him in the state which over a year's imprisonment had reduced her to, Rama arranges for Sita to be bathed and given beautiful garments before they are re-united. But even as Sita comes before him in great excitement and happiness, Rama does not look at her, staring fixedly at the ground. He tells her that he had fought the war only to avenge the dishonour that Ravana had inflicted on Rama, and now Sita was free to go where she pleased. At this sudden turn of events, all the vanaras, rakshasas, Sugriva, Hanuman and Lakshmana are deeply shocked.

A devastated Sita, shaking with grief and humiliation, begs Lakshmana to build her a pyre upon which she could end her life, as she could not live without Rama. At this point, Lakshmana is angered at Rama for the first time in his life, but following Rama's nod, he builds a pyre for Sita. At the great shock and sorrow of the watchers, Sita walks into the flames. But to their greater shock and wonder, she is completely unharmed. Instead, she glows radiantly from the centre of the pyre. Immediately Rama runs to Sita and embraces her. He had never doubted her purity for a second, but, as he explains to a dazzled Sita, the people of the world would not have accepted or honoured her as a queen or a woman if she had not passed this Agni pariksha before the eyes of millions, where Agni would destroy the impure and sinful, but not touch the pure and innocent."

FV said...

I should hope you realise your comment is applicable ONLY to the latter part of the footnote.

The Wiki version you have given is under dispute. This is what it says at the site:

The neutrality of this article is disputed.
Please see the discussion on the talk page.
This article or section has been tagged since September 2007.
Please do not remove this message until the dispute is resolved.
This complete article needs additional citations for verification.
Please help improve this article by adding reliable references. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (September 2007


(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rama)

Even if one accepts the version which you have chosen to quote from, Ram permitting her to go through the trial is still about her having to prove her purity. What he does with her later is not the issue.

And just in case you are interested in other readings that are more than superficial, there are versions that might shock you, including one that says Sita in fact slayed Ravana. One must also not forget that it was Hanuman who rescued her.

I have made a reference to some of it in the following:


http://farzana-versey.blogspot.com/2007/08/trial-by-fire.html

Anonymous said...

The significance of this post lies in the poem - which stands on its own, regardless of the accuracy of the myth - its historical accuracy is incidental even irrelevant. The myth is employed as metaphor, one could argue regarding the utility of the myth in the present context, vis-a-vis the lost Sitas, hardly its accuracy. Myth as metaphor abound art, literature, music even film, I'd hate to lose any because it can't cut the mustard of historical accuracy. Seeking objectivity in a myth is an oxymoron, to begin with.

Beej.Kumar@gmail.com said...

I acknowledge that this side issue is not concerned with the main thrust of your poem. I will also admit that your knowledge of the subject is no more superficial than that of most other people.

Therefore, not to belabor the point – but the discussion on the “talk” section of that Wiki page does not dispute THIS aspect of the story. (You can verify that by checking the “talk” section yourself.)

[One must also not forget that it was Hanuman who rescued her.]

Actually, he did not. Hanumana had specific instructions to trace her, to identify himself by giving her the “mudrika”, to communicate his message of hope to restore her courage, yet he also had specific instruction not to rescue her – because that would have been like repeating what Ravana had done. – which would have been like stealing.

[Even if one accepts the version which you have chosen to quote from, Ram permitting her to go through the trial is still about her having to prove her purity.]

The character – Rama – is not meant to personify perfection (which is why he appeals to so many people and the legend has survived so long) rather somebody whose conduct can be easily understood and to an extent emulated by others, yet somebody who also harbors the weaknesses of human nature (like anger). He is not called “superman”, merely “maryada purushottam”. The concept of maryada has evolved over time. The independence of woman as an individual is a relatively recent concept and still not jelled properly in most cultures. Back in those days, women had no existence apart from their husbands – therefore, they were called “ardhangini”! I am not saying that was good or bad – it just was.

BTW, by calling your understanding of the Ramayana shallow, I did not mean to imply that your other pieces are shallow, or otherwise. Each piece is different – some are good, some less so.

FV said...

Anon:

Of course, the poem ought to stand on its own, but I had to explain certain terms, and my canvas so to speak was the broad strokes of the legend.

When I talk about the "lost Sitas", it is not so much the lack of adherence to the mythical one (as a matter of fact calling her a 'shaakh' did not empower her in any way to the normal eye)but making her the protagonist rather than a character. The use of the inanimate as a metaphor was precisly to underline this 'objectivity' and objectification.

Unfortunately, the moment we supposedly upset religious symbolism (or any other noble applecart)the poem or any piece of art gets judged on the accuracy and obduracy of its 'source'.

This Sita in fact is not the legtimised partner and in her own way is challenging the legitimacy of the legitimate to become a part of her while being removed from her sphere. I usually avoid translating but I may make an attempt...or perhaps a detailed deconstruction
- - -
Beej:

If those in the Talk section do not dispute it, then their understanding is as good as mine. I have elaborated on the use of the myth in the response above.

The legend has survived so long, as all legends do, because it has religious sanction. It isn't because Ram has 'human' qualities but because he is an avtaar of Vishnu...

I agree that he has frailties that may be visible, but people do not deify him for those qualities.

The 'ardhangini' concept prevails even while people forget the 'ardhnarishwara' one where man had half of woman in him.

PS: I don't mind any reference to my shallow research. I prefer stir-fried veggies to deep fried, that too might be shallow. And I am on pretty strong ground where my 'understanding' goes, and I believe interpretation is the key to going beyond the bounds of stratified thinking in any area. So long as I do not tamper with the faith of people, and I assume people's faith is strong enough for them not to be affected by my forays into poetry.

Thank you both for the engaging exchange...